Domaine Armand Rousseau Clos de Beze and Clos des Ruchottes dinner

Conrad Hotel, Singapore
Tasted Saturday, February 4, 2012 by Paul S with 528 views

Introduction

This was a lovely little dinner with third generation winemaker Eric Rousseau and his wife put together by Wine Nirvana. Few wines, but all aboslutely top-notch. I could not have asked for more. This more or less reaffirmed how much I love Clos de Beze, it is indeed one of the most precious jewels in the Burgundy firmament, and how lucky we are that a large part of the terroir is in the hands of Domaine Armand Rousseau. The wines were a sparkling testimony to the Domaine's reputation and their ability to turn out wines of the highest order across the vintages.

Eric Rousseau had this to say of the two vineyards represented at the dinner:

Ruchottes: A small Grand Cru of 3.3 hectares, of which the Clos des Ruchottes, a monopole of the Domaine, makes up a full 1 hectares, yielding an average of 4,500 bottles a year. This is cool terroir, influenced by the draft coming down from the Combe Lavaux. It had shallow top-soil, giving way quickly to rocks underneath.

Clos de Beze: Eric thinks this is possibly the oldest vineyard in Gevrey, with records going back to the 6th Century. In contrast to the Ruchottes, this is hotter terroir, with good exposition and an "important" slope. In the bottle, Clos de Beze is always deeper coloured than other GC for some unknown reasons, and usually yields very complex, very expressive wines that are also very long in the mouth.

Flight 1 - STARTER (1 Note)

  • NV Vilmart & Cie Champagne Grand Cellier Brut 91 Points

    France, Champagne

    Really interesting Champagne - this was a good NV. Needs time though. It had a pretty tight nose, rather earthy, minerally, with a nice touch of exotic spice and just that little bit of citrus fruit opening up into nutty accents with time. The palate had nice grip for a wine made from 1er Cru grapes, with a snappy, bright, indeed almost tart attack with citrus lemon and lime notes streaming away into an absolutely minerally midpalate and a long, bone-dry finish. Very interesting, full of character, wonderfully delineated, but just perhaps a bit too much acidity to be truly enjoyable at the moment. Even a rather rich dish of scallops in squid-ink risotto was not qutie enough to tame this. One to broach in another 3-4 years' time I think. Supern value for its price though.

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Flight 2 - 1996 (2 Notes)

  • 1996 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes 93 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru

    Wow, what a great start to the dinner. This was really nice. It had an absolutely gorgeous nose that was just starting to take on secondary notes. Here, there was a beautiful core of sweet morello cherry surrounded by a halo of undergrowth aromas, stony mineral scents, a sprinkle of spice and Chinese herbs. Lovely stuff. The palate came across just a bit younger than the nose, a bit tighter, perhaps less giving than on that lovely bouquet, but it had a wonderfully Gevrey core of sweet morellos, all nicely ripe, sappy and pure. Beautiful. The red druited tones shaded a bit into sweet plum territory on the midpalate before it petered out into a rather tight red cherry finish touched by the littlest hints of mineral and spice, and maybe a tiny suggestion of sweet acetone at the very end. With time and food, it opened really nicely, showing an earthy length filled with bits of earth, little mushroomy notes and more Chinese herbs. Pretty nicely structured and blessed with a good amount of 1996 acidity yet without being shrill. A really nice wine which should do even better a couple of years down the road.

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  • 1996 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 95 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru

    This was quite, quite brilliant. A stunning wine from head to toe, and it was not even quite ready to drink yet! From the first sniff, it had a dropdead gorgeous nose - even more expressive than the Ruchottes that preceded it. This wine just exploded out of the glass with a profound melange of white pepper and dried earth, smoked meat with some toasty coffee hints and bits of cayenne spice, all playing alongside a core of sweet black cherry aromas just bubbling below the surface. Incredible stuff. One could go one just sniffing this the whole night long, but boy, the palate was possibly even more beautiful. It had a lovely feminine elegance to its top-notes, with sappy black cherries and plums wreathed with a gentle waft of violet-like floral perfume. Incredibly lovely. Underneath that though, you got a much more solid, masculine core of meat, limetsoney mineral and earth that carried the wine into a super long finish with curls of smoke and gentle toasty notes. It was at once a beautifully elegant wine, yet one that was full of tensile strength, with wells of depth and lovely stream of freshness to crown it all. This needs plenty of time yet, what with all its coiled up complexity, strength and fine tannin structure, but boy it was smashing on the night as it is. A crowd favourite, I thought the 1999 Beze, which was really tight and clenched at first, threaten to overtake this as WOTN towards the end of the evening. However, this will be at its peak far sooner. 4-5 years would do just fine I would say.

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Flight 3 - 1999 (2 Notes)

  • 1999 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes 92 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru

    Certainly a good wine, but this did not show all that well - perhaps the only wine on the night that was a little disappointing, but even that was probably a function of both its relative youth as well as the general tightness of the 1999 vintage. One certainly got another wonderful nose here as well, but this was noticeably earthier, funkier and meatier than the other wines on the night, with more undergrowth and maybe some farmyardy notes coming through alongside its lush aromas of dark cherries and mulberries lined with an earthy minerality and mushroomy, meaty umami notes. More low notes here than the pair of 1996s that followed it, but really nice in its own way, and very Gevrey in character. After that nose, the palate was surprisingly really bright, almost super-fresh, with acidity that spiked up on the attack even more so than on the 1996 Ruchottes. However, this was followed by a far heftier, weightier midpalate, with a great depth of sappy black cherries, lingon-berries and plum flavours. Yummy stuff. The finish was still a bit tight and indistinct though, maybe even a tad short in the way it swept through the back-palate with a burst of very ripe cherries touched with a little wash of wood spice and a hint of herb. This was a big wine with great depth and a good amount of presence, but there was something missing at points to make it a great wine. To be fair, it was still far too young and hard to judge, but there is quite a bit to like here nonetheless and it should improve in time. One to store away.

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  • 1999 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 96 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru

    Incredible. This took awhile to get going. It started out really tight and clenched, even more so than the 1999 Ruchottes that preceded it, but bit by bit, it opened up and relaxed in the glass, so that one managed to catch glimpses of just how great a wine it will be one day towards the end of the evening. There was lots going on with the nose even on first pour - a bit of charcoal smoke, some dill and mint, wood spice and herb, with an underlayer of clear, ripe dark cherry fruit bedded oo a stream of chalky mineral and earthy aromas. A lot of stuffing, but one got a feel that it was still tight, with plenty more to come. Indeed, with time, the fruit came out more and more, showing in a melange of red and black cherry scents seasoned with a lovely waft of smoky minerality. Still tight, but attractive nonetheles. It was the palate that knocked my socks off though. This had so much richness and power, just layer after deep layer of velvety textured goodness that unfolded in flavours dark cherries and blackberries lined with a serious minerality and a meaty, earthy depth. Power indeed, but this was wed to typical Rousseau finesse and tied to an impeccable sense of balance - the archetypal iron fist in a velvet glove. It was certainly still very tight, with lots of coiled up substance couched in its noble structure, but even then, there was a certain wild, impetuous energy dancing around in there somewhere. It required a lot of patience not to drink it all up within the first half hour. We thankfully did not because, with time, it started opening up and fanning out, showing wells of beautiful clarity with pure red cherry fruits sprinkled with a bit of musk as the wine pulled away into a beautifully long, perfectly integrated and almost profoundly deep finish. Just beautiful stuff. This was a real thoroughbred. It needs another 10 years easily, but there is so much going on here even now. It needs time, but wait for it - this will be mindblowing at peak.

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Flight 4 - 2006 (1 Note)

  • 2006 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 95 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru

    This rounded up a trio a absolutely gorgeous Clos de Bezes. Eric Rousseau stressed just how difficult a vintage 2006 was, especially for this terroir, damaged as it was by hail towards the harvest. It took a drastic selection and highly reduced production to get this bottling of the ground, but boy am I glad some of this was saved. It was gorgeous, and the Domaine has every reason to be as proud of their work here as they are. What a nose this had, so high-toned that it was almost un-Rousseau-like, with a really bright, almost dancing bouquet of raspberries, red cherries and strawberries whipped in with dollops of fresh cream. Really pretty stuff. Over time, this was met in the glass with a bit of angelica root and other herbs playing on a backdrop of meat and mineral scents. Beautiful - one of the best noses on the night. The palate was lovely too. Still really open, almost surprisingly so, this showed a beautifully sappy mouthful of red cherries and berries wed to wonderfully bright acidity. There was a lovey sense of tension and energy on this, along with a fine grip of beautifully shaped tannins on the midpalate. It was in a noticeably lighter syle - this was as feminine and elegant as a Beze gets - yet no one would ever accuse this wine of being short on depth or substance. A lovely finish rounded the wine off, with an almost kumquat-like citrus lift along with a kiss of red cherries and a little stream of minerality. Delicious. This was still a baby, but what a beautiful one it was. Still primary, not altogether complex in its youth, but it is an achievement.

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